User-Generated Content – More Than Customer Reviews

Business.com / Marketing Strategy / Last Modified: March 1, 2017

Making a case for moving your UGC strategy beyond reviews, background to UGC strategy and why it's such a successful marketing strategy.

You’ve probably noticed lots of noise about content marketing and specifically user-generated content (UGC) at the moment. But UGC isn’t a new thing; customer reviews sites have been around for decades, and certain ones are huge players on the digital field.

Often, when brands consider incorporating UGC into the business, it is straightforward customer reviews that spring to mind. For marketers, this means striving to achieve only positive reviews, which is why many, even very experienced and "switched-on" marketers, are often fearful of embracing UGC in their marketing mix.

But reviews really are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to UGC, and a strategy that effectively leverages UGC is a powerful thing indeed. An intrinsic element of a well-crafted content marketing approach, UGC can be the fuel that drives wider engagement, builds trust and powers marketing channels well beyond the lifespan of a campaign, even a really well-integrated one. 

In this article, we will explore the following:

  • Exactly what UGC is
  • A strategic overview of UGC
  • Putting UGC to work, practical steps

What is UGC?

Content marketing is arguably the most important element in customer communications in the world of marketing today. This is in part due to the huge recent explosion of technology and has intrinsically changed the way customers consume and engage with content.

My definition of user-generated content is “authentic content generated by users in connection to a brand, encouraged by an inspiring and empowering call-to-action framework from that brand, with the aim of raising brand interest and generating sales.”  

A strategic overview

UGC, used effectively as part of a holistic omnichannel marketing strategy, can be a powerful tool. As the power over the actual content ultimately lies with the consumer, this can lead many brands to be fearful of UGC. But with the right strategy and framework in place, UGC can be hugely beneficial to a brand and make content marketing so much more seamless.

Still unsure? Here are some facts and figures that might change your mind:

  • Advertising based on UGC can result in a 400% increase in click-thru rates.
  • UGC can increase web conversions by 26%.
  • UGC on a site can result in a 20% increase in returning visitors.
  • Time customers spend on the site itself can increase by up to 90%.

Much of the UGC that we all experience day to day is online reviews. Whether you're using it to research your next holiday or being asked for it after purchasing something from an online retailer, customer reviews are extremely valuable. From everything from products to services, packaging, and the ultimate delivery, every step of the customer journey through their purchasing decisions is open to review.

But why are brands and service providers so keen to allow themselves to be critiqued inn such a way? Well . . .

  • When making a purchase decision, 93% of customers say they find reviews helpful.
  • Customer reviews on your site can increase conversion by 74%.
  • 64% of customers actively search for online customer reviews.

So, what makes UGC so massively powerful? Well, the simple answer is trust.

Since human society evolved, we have shared stories and experiences. It’s what builds communities and holds them together, sharing the human experience. Ultimately, that is what UGC is about, sharing our experiences. It’s just that technology has changed the way we do this.

Word of mouth is the most powerful marketing discipline available to any business. It’s the one channel that will gain you the most return, but it’s also the hardest one to deliver, as you really don’t have any control over it. Why is it so powerful? Well, people tend to trust other people. A brand might share a piece of messaging that is largely ignored. But if a person shares that same message, their peers, friends, family, colleagues and even strangers are more likely to not only listen, but also trust it.

  • 70% of people trust peer reviews and customer recommendations more than the same brand value messaging directly from a business.
  • Social networking (50%), peer reviews (68%) and conversations with friends (74%), which are all forms of UGC, are more trusted for product information than TV (34%), radio (37%) and newspapers (44%).

So, if you want to gain consumer trust, a major contributing factor in not only gaining new customers but retaining existing ones, then you need to get people outside your business creating and sharing content about your brand for you.

Practical steps to building a UGC framework

So how can a brand build UGC into its business? Let’s walk through the sales funnel of KNOW, LIKE, TRUST and BUY.

  • KNOW – For a customer to know the brand, the content and communication of the company’s core beliefs and value requires an element of how-to.
  • LIKE – Use storytelling around the brand beliefs to create sympathy and empathy for the brand.

In these first two stages, UGC can grow.

  • TRUST – This is where the full potential of UGC can evolve and expand. The challenge is creating a framework and motivation for consumers to express their brand experience in a way that is desirable to the brand itself. Once the content is generated, there then needs to be methodology in place to broadcast it and allow engagement.
  • This can then start a cycle of feedback and analysis to constantly monitor and improve the experience to strengthen the brand, which will lead to BUY.

The figures simply don't lie where UGC is concerned, so I'd urge any brand marketer who's concerned with the outcomes to take a chance. Give it a try. For some further reading, have a look at my recent blog for DVO, the agency I lead, here.

Image from Biz Idea Production/Shutterstock

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